Constitution Day and Citizenship Day

Sept. 17 of every year is Citizenship Day, also known as Constitution Day, and was established in 1952 by a joint resolution in Congress to commemorate the day in 1787 when our nation’s forefathers signed the U.S. Constitution. It is called Citizenship Day because it originated in 1940, when another joint resolution was passed to set aside a day when immigrants attaining U.S. Citizenship would be honored. The 1952 Congress repealed that 1940 resolution and, instead, passed the new resolution with the purpose of also honoring new citizens on the same day, hence the keeping of the original name. In 2004, Senator Robert Byrd convinced that Congress to change the name of the holiday to Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.

The 1952 law encouraged educators, and state and local governments to host programs that would instruct citizens in their opportunities and responsibilities as citizens, and in their states, cities and towns. The 2004 name change also brought two new requirements in the observance of this holiday, which was that the head of every federal agency provide each employee with educational information on the Constitution. The second requirement is that every school that receives federal funding must conduct a program for students about the Constitution and about citizenship.

To observe this holiday, you might want to attend a ceremony hosted somewhere in your community. Or, you could gather the family and a few friends and have a reading of the Constitution on your own. Food you serve at this gathering should be New England or Colonial fare, to symbolize the type of food that would have been served at gatherings of new Americans in 1787. Fresh seafood from the Atlantic would be appropriate, as would dishes with corn, squash, pumpkins and beans. Turkey pot pie and West Indies Pepper Pot soup might have been served in Philadelphia, as would oysters breaded in a cornmeal batter, or pork chops served with sauerkraut, Pennsylvania Dutch style. Here is a recipe for fried oysters in a cornmeal batter from the Oyster Company of Virginia.

 Fried oysters, breaded with a mixture of cornmeal and flour and seasonings
* 24 to 36 oysters, raw
* 2 eggs, beaten
* 2 cups cornmeal
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 2 teaspoons salt
* 1 teaspoon pepper
* 2 tablespoons flour

Drain oysters. In a bowl, beat eggs; add drained oysters and let stand for 10 minutes. Mix cornmeal, sugar, salt, pepper and flour. Dip oysters in cornmeal mixture and fry in batches in deep hot oil or shortening -- at about 370° -- until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serves 4 to 6.

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